Heather’s Story

Heather

 

 

 

 

Before Austin was born Heather had little idea about the parent she wanted to be. Her heart knew there were things, like spanking, that she hoped to avoid but that alone was not enough to sustain a consistent journey toward peaceful parenting. In the beginning, Austin’s cries landed him solidly in Heather’s arms. It made sense that he sleep close to her, that he be held instead of left alone. It was intuitive in the beginning. As independence increased and Austin found a voice and pushed to find his own edges, it became more challenging. So timeouts and punishment were used before new information arrived to help them find their way back together.

When Austin was eight Heather heard Sandra Dodd present a talk titled Partnerships in the Family and this was the beginning. Heart split open, Heather knew she had wandered shortly on a dangerous pathway. She knew as these words fell upon her that she had found the missing piece, that way back to the connection she had with Austin, in those early years. The road to healing their relationship and repairing their self esteem began to unfold. Seeking out connections with others, parenting from this place of peace and connection, built on what she had heard and gave her the courage to continue moving forward.

It’s the commitment to continually improve herself and remain connected with Austin that keeps Heather committed to the path of peacefulness.  Seeing their relationship unfolding as happiness prevails and healing blossoms is enough evidence to make sure turning back is never an option. Stepping back and jeopardizing what they have been committed to building with one another, simply does not make sense. There are of course days where things are challenging, where rhythms are a bit off beat and where arguments unfold. But listening more and talking less is what guides Heather’s interactions to a place where she can really see the human being in front of her.  She opens her heart to see Austin’s point of view, just as valid as her own so that they may come to a mutually respectful resolution.

To those stepping on this path, Heather knows that support was huge for her. To find people who are walking this peaceful path, as examples for yourself. Seek out others who see their children as deserving of the very same respect they would offer their adult peers. This may involve walking away from existing support systems in order to embrace new people more aligned with your thinking as a parent. It can be heartbreaking to reach out for support from others who are disrespecting and punishing their children. You may have to be the one in the group that stands us and says, actually I’m doing this differently. Even in the face of shame, once Heather had the trust and respect of her son, nothing, especially not fitting into a group, was more important. Be strong in your conviction that this is the path to a peaceful home.

There is a story, that sums up the hard work and it’s worth and remains an anchor for the why of peaceful parenting in Heather’s life.  In her words : “Monty, Austin and I were at a panel of unschooled teens where a parent in the back was having a hard time understanding the importance of laying the ground work with young children for a connected relationship through the teen years. Austin – who was about 9 at the time – spoke up and talked about how much more connected he felt to us since we stopped being authoritarian parents. He talked about the connection between us, and how much better he feels as a person because of the changes we made as parents. He was articulate and concise, and held the rooms attention while he talked. I was blown away. I think *everyone* in the room was blown away. It’s a moment I go back to if I’m feeling shaky because hearing him talk about his experience and how much happier he is now is why I want to keep going down this path.”

Heather dreams of Austin coming into adulthood as happy, healthy and confident  in his ability to do whatever he chooses. And knowing in the moments when his confidence is shaky he has both mom and dad to fall back on.

 

Heather lives in the Bay Area with her son, husband, two dogs, and a cat where she enjoys writing, adventuring, and power watching TV series on Netflix. You can find her adventures at www.todaywasamazing,com.

 

Flo Gascon and her journey

I loved so much what Flo had to say that I simply left it all here, interview style. I know her words will both touch and inspire you on your own journey.

Flo

 

 

 

 

1) What lead you down the path of gentle, connected parenting?

Falling in love with my newborn led the way. Biology proved stronger than any other influence, any preconceived ideas, any parenting book. The endorphins that enveloped me as I bonded with my baby banished the possibility of any other way from my mind. I couldn’t envision ever hurting this sweet, amazing gift and wanted to prepare myself to ensure a joy-filled relationship. As I listened to her, she needed a lot of physical touch, to know that I was there for her, with her. Our physical bond grew alongside our emotional bond and the more time we spent together led to a deeper connection and encouraged me that I was on the right path. Once I saw what a good thing I had with gentleness, compassion, flexibility and partnership, a more conventional approach held no appeal. I’ve remained committed to connection as my primary parenting approach.

2) Why have you stayed committed to the process? And what strategies do you have that pull you back to the centre when life or stress creeps in?

I see my children blossoming. They are bright, enthusiastic, friendly, caring, helpful, and confident. We aren’t perfect but I can see how grounded and happy my daughters are, convincing me that this process works. I feel relaxed and content which is a significant touchstone for me. When I’m feeling doubtful or worried, then I know it’s time to analyze that a bit and discover what I’m missing. Usually I’m over-reacting or being influenced by a stress outside of parenting. Yes, life creeps in and yes, I worry sometimes if one day I’ll wonder where I went wrong or that my kids will wish I had done something differently. (That will happen anyway, I believe, because it’s what we all do.)

Two opposing strategies help me gain clarity: I slow down or I distract myself. Slowing down looks like clearing the calendar, committing to two or more days at home with nothing planned. Scheduling no more than one activity a day so I’m not juggling too much. Doing one thing at a time instead of trying to multi-task. I wash my dishes in soapy water instead of using the dishwasher so I am forced to stand still and focus. It’s easy to spin out of control, especially if I am busy or frantic or worried. Stopping and giving myself space and time to regain my footing can typically clear away my doubts and fears.

When I find myself in angst I want to figure out the problem, stat. Hyper-focusing on an issue and problem solving can be a rabbit-hole and lead to more concern. Analysis can be paralysis and this is when I know distraction is important. As a parent, I sometimes want to fix everything or make it all better but that’s not possible. By turning my attention away, I can let it go. In those moments, I finish a project or begin a new one. I grab my camera and am amazed at how much time passes while the issue slides away. I queue up movies. I cook meals with many ingredients that require time and attention. When my mind is re-calibrated, I can see that my kids are okay and I am, too.

3) What is one piece of encouragement you would offer to a parent first starting on the journey toward a more gentle, peaceful relationship with their child(ren)

Don’t get ahead of yourself. We like to believe that we can prepare for tomorrow but it’s more important to permit today to happen. Life is how you spend each moment, it’s not a destination. Each little thing piles one upon another as one day rolls into the next, the years into decades. If you want a happy, connected relationship, you’ll find it in the happy, connected things you do with and for your child right now. It isn’t something at which you arrive or twist into being through tough love. A solid future for your child isn’t developed through imagination and unwarranted concern.

This morning I was lying next to my sleeping twelve-year-old, remembering how little she once was. Then I tried to imagine what she would look like, be like in five years and I started to worry. Was I doing a good job here? What if this, what if that? I couldn’t imagine what she might look like taller, more developed, with her life more her own. So I reminded myself that I shouldn’t try to know that because it’s futile. I can’t know anymore than I could have looked at her toddler face and seen her as she is today. Time changes us all and when it brings us to five years from now, that’s where we’ll be. But for today, I have a girl by my side and all is well.

Don’t borrow worry from the future. Invest in happiness today. It compounds with interest.

5) What do you dream of for your child(ren)?

My dream for my children is that they know themselves so well that they live out their own dreams. In a world where possibilities are expanding as quickly as our technology, I want space and time for my children to explore the options that excite them the most. The path of a well-lived life is carved and worn by the deepest expressions of our spirits, our talents and our loves. I dream that my daughters eschew the expectations of others so they can fully and deeply encounter themselves as they grow and reach out into the world around them. Being oneself is the greatest satisfaction I could ever hope they have.

Flo Gascon is a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. Among and in-between, she’s authored Keep Your Cool: How to Stop Yelling, Spanking & Punishing, is a family portrait photographer and creator of the Wide Sky Days family events. Alongside romping with her girls on sandy beaches and wrangling reproducing sticky notes, she takes notice, drinks tea and makes dreamy plans as if she has many lifetimes yet to live. Because there is so much life to love that once surely won’t be enough. She blogs at http://flogascon.com. Her book Keep Your Cool: How to Stop Yelling, Spanking & Punishing: What to do instead is available on Amazon

 

Kristal’s Story

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Please meet a treasured member of my tribe, Kristal! I have been blessed to call her a friend for seven years now and it has been my honor to witness her in relationship with her boys, husband and each member of her extended tribe.

Kristal met Rob early on in life. And it wasn’t long before their love multiplied in to their first child. Being young themselves most of what they knew about parenting was strands pulled from their own families of origin. This advice included what one can expect to hear from a more tradition approach to parenting.  Kristal’s eyes tear up at the memory of the ferber method, the bottle feeding and the advice to spank her child. With the birth of their second child they started to seek out advice from other sources on how to support this growing family. And with the home birth of their third child a new connection and energy was growing for this family. This welcoming was drawing the family toward a softer, gentler way of being together.

Kristal’s third born son, was a super sensitive soul who expressed himself in a sometime explosive manner, this sent her in search of a more connected, softer way of easing him and his brothers into the world around them. She wanted to be with all her boys in a non-coercive, respectful and loving way. As soon as the shift began, the domino effect hit and Kristal could see all of her relationships deepening and becoming more connected.

Early on this path,  Kristal had an experience, that helped her move toward her children and away from others ideas about who she should be with them.  Her youngest son was 4 at the time. They were having a most joyful day lakeside with friends. Of course her son was fully happy in the sand, the lake and following his own rhythm. When everyone was tired and ready to head home, they packed up. Her youngest son was not on board with this at all. The others made their way back toward the car and Kristal stayed to help her son out. His four year old self stood, in the lake and asserted “NO!” more then once. He ignored her outstretched arms. With the eyes of every other parent on the beach beating down on her, Kristal felt the panic set in. Thankfully it passed quickly and she was able to stay present with her son. To see him, who he was, what his needs were. And eventually from this place, he agreed to meet the others at the car and return home, peacefully by Kristal’s side. From this experience forward Kristal has had the courage to let the judgement of others fall off her back in order to meet the needs of her own children each and every time.

The evidence was fast and benefits immediate, Kristal never looked back once she walked down the peaceful parenting path.  The relationship with the boys grew stronger everyday.  This proved to both Kristal and Rob that there was no other way to be in relationship with their children and so from that day forth, they  have continued with gentle parenting at the heart of their relationship.

Life still gets chaotic because well that is the nature of living together with others. But Kristal has a few simply tricks in her tool box that help keep it all on track.  The first step is always taking a deep breath, a pause. From there she tries to see each conflict or situation from the perspective of everyone that is involved. This wider view helps to come up with solutions, suggestions, or just a little compassion. Finally, she reminds herself that this to shall pass, that in a minute, hour, tomorrow, a week, a month or even a year things will be better. And Kristal has this beautiful gem to offer to anyone first stepping off the path of punishment onto the path of gentle, peaceful parenting “Have patience. Trust yourself and trust your child(ren). Kids are awesome when you step back and observe what they are learning instead of getting in their way and deciding what is best for them. Be there for all the support they need. You will be pleasantly surprised by how confident, secure and amazing they become on their own.”

To sum it all up, Kristal and Rob chose this path, because they saw so quickly how it could benefit all the relationships and human beings learning and growing in their home.  I leave you with what Kristal hopes for her boys. Kristal dreams of her boys, confident in their own ability to do whatever their heart desires and that they challenge themselves to do it!.

Kristal and Rob live in Duncan, B.C alongside their three boys 17,14 and 11. Each one following their own desires.